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Teaching Artist Leah Reddy spoke with Rocío Mendez about her work on the bandaged place.

Leah Reddy: What is your theatre origin story?

Rocío Mendez: I knew I wanted to be an actor when I was five. I ended up going to a performing arts junior high, a performing arts high school and going to college for performing arts. I've been in the theatre for a very long time. There was a really small stint after my first round of college where I thought I would maybe go into law, but that failed miserably. And then I went back to school for acting.

LR: Can you talk a little bit about the influences, inspirations, or experiences as a young artist that helped you get to where you are today?

RM: I was always into martial arts. I started with karate. And I dabbled into some gymnastics, and then I did kung fu and capoeira and then finally stuck with Muay Thai, so I have a strong movement background. I was really inspired by kung fu films, like old school kung fu films. I've been a huge fan of Michelle Yeoh since I was 12, Jackie Chan was always a favorite of mine, and Bruce Lee.

I had a [stage combat] teacher. Her name is Carrie Brewer. She was like, "You should do this, this is a career choice." I had no idea that I could be a fight director. She mentored me as soon as I graduated from acting school and the ball just kept rolling.

I was like, "I love this, I love this." And then eventually I met Qui Nguyen with Vampire Cowboys. I have been trained by him for a long time. And [through that work] I loved [fight direction] even more. Those are my inspirations and the actual live influences I had in my life in terms of fight direction. Then, eventually, intimacy direction fell on my lap by accident. I got to meet Claire Warden, who is still my mentor and friend and helped me in that direction, to become an intimacy director.

LR: What are the responsibilities of a fight director and an intimacy director on a theatrical production?

RM: As a fight director, my responsibility is to storytell through violence, safely. And it's the same thing with intimacy direction. Intimacy direction is choreographing scenes of intimacy, which can vary from a kiss to simulated sex. I choreograph it to tell the story and to do it safely and with full consent with everyone involved within the intimacy. As intimacy director, we also advocate and liaise for actors, just to make sure everyone's on the same page that is involved.

LR: Is there anything I haven't asked you that you think is important to talk about in terms of the role of fight director or intimacy director or coordinator?

RM: Well, I think that what is cool about being an intimacy director – and, no matter if I'm the intimacy director or not – is establishing a culture of consent in the production process. It's really important to me to have consent-based practices in the room, even if there's not necessarily intimacy in the show. Because I think people tend to be more relaxed when it's from a consent-based place because it feels safer. The safer people feel, the more honest they can be in creating. They just feel good about being at their best.

LR: You've worked with both director David Mendizábal and playwright Harrison David Rivers on previous productions. What excites you about that collaboration and what excites you about this play?

RM: I love David. I think they are excellent director and storyteller. And what excites me is just the simple collaboration and the flow of how we work back and forth together. Our vocabulary is very similar. We worked on this play together at Powerhouse, and it just was really exciting and flowed really well. I like that David lets me make mistakes. They allow a little bit of failure in the room so that we can discover what the right storytelling is. That really, really excites me.

Harrison is just, I think, a brilliant writer. And I think his storytelling really comes from the heart, and it's honest. It comes from a real place.

LR: What advice do you have for people who maybe want to pursue this as a career path?

RM: Don't give up. Always keep learning. ‘Till this day, I still take classes. ‘Till this day, I do martial arts. ‘Till this day, I take acting classes. No matter what, I keep training and I keep up to speed. The industry's always evolving and changing so it's important to grow and evolve with the industry.

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